Hell Week is a right of passage for all Navy SEALs. It is the hardest week of the hardest training program in the U.S. military, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.  It always falls during First Phase of BUD/S — in the modern era, anyway — though it has moved around a bit within First Phase.  Sometimes it is the fourth week, sometimes the fifth, and so on.

Hell Week holds some ancient rituals and trials, which all BUD/S students know they can expect, and it also holds some surprises, that are either pre-planned and kept under wraps by the instructor staff, or launched on a whim by a particularly sadistic instructor.

All the BUD/S students who have made it to Hell Week know, for example, that they can expect the “Steel Pier,” the paddle around the island, the mud flats, the demolition pit, and hours and hours of calisthenics and boat handling.  They also know that they can expect little, if any sleep, as much food as they can stuff in themselves during meal times, and countless surf torture sessions, in the frigid Pacific ocean.

There is no sure-fire way to prepare yourself for Hell Week, physically, other than to be prepared for BUD/S, generally.  There is not some magic trick to making it; there are no shortcuts.  BUD/S students will suffer and they will suffer mightily.  One boat crew might win itself a slight respite, and five minutes of sleep, if it is victorious in a boat race of some sort, but that is no guarantee.  It does always pay to be a winner, but the victory is often a pyrrhic one, as that five minutes of sleep can be followed by a grueling “beating” by the instructor staff.